What to do when it’s too cold and wet to venture outside with that bundle of energy covered in a fur coat (aka the dog)? Daily play sessions reduce stress and undesirable behaviors for your pup. They also do the same for people, improving mood and making us happier!

Try the following indoor activities to burn off excess energy and mentally stimulate your pooch through these winter months. Or, make up your own. Remember, it should be fun for all.

Hide & Seek

Hide a favorite toy, treat or person. Play with one or more people. You can also use this to teach basic commands like sit, stay and come.

Confine your dog to a room, or use the stay command, while you hide the treat, toy or person. Release the pup with a command, for example, “treat.” When he finds the object, praise his efforts and repeat.

When beginning to play, you may need to let the dog see you hide the object until he gets the hang of the game. Once he gets the idea, increase the challenges.

Puzzle Games

Put a treat in each hole of an old muffin tin. Then, place a ball over each space. The challenge is remembering where they haven’t found food, especially when a ball rolls from one hole to another.

Or, place a treat under only one of three plastic cups. Move them around to change the order. The goal is to guess which cup the treat is under.

Another thought-provoking activity is to fill a large bowl with water, float a plastic lid with a treat in it on the water. The trick is to get the treat without sinking the lid. A large plastic jar lid works, but so does anything shallow that floats. Some dogs put their nose in water to retrieve a sunken treat, but most won’t.

Round About

This game is great with kids. Everyone sits together in a circle with the pup in the same room. Everyone has kibble and takes turns calling the dog’s name. When he goes to the right person he’s rewarded with a treat and praise. This game is fun outside, too.

Think of play time as an investment. Where else can you get a basketful of happiness, for you and your pup, with such a small investment of time? So, have fun!